Guy Sentenced in Decades-Long, $126M Printer Toner Scheme

Gilbert Michaels gets 4 years
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 8, 2021 2:44 AM CDT
Man Will Spend 4 Years Behind Bars in Printer Toner Scheme
   (Getty Images / Carlos Ivan Gil Iglesias)

For decades, a Los Angeles man defrauded small businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations by selling them printer toner they didn't need. Over one period of six years, Gilbert N. Michaels, 79, conned the victims out of $126 million, the Justice Department says in a press release. On Friday, Michaels learned his fate: He was sentenced to four years in a federal prison, followed by nearly two and a half years of home confinement, and was ordered to pay a $200,000 fine. More than 50,000 businesses and other organizations signed up with Michaels' companies, which pretended to be connected with the organizations' existing toner suppliers and told the organizations that by ordering in bulk, they could lock in at the lower rate they'd been paying for toner before pricing went up.

Even so, Michaels' companies ended up selling the toner to the organizations at up to 10 times the normal price, Vice reports. Many of the organizations were actually already getting toner at no additional cost as part of their lease agreements for their office equipment, the New York Times reports, but Michaels' companies would threaten to sic collections agencies on anyone who refused to pay, and would hit anyone who tried to return the toner with expensive restocking fees. Six other co-conspirators were also convicted alongside Michaels of conspiracy, mail fraud, and money laundering, Marketwatch reports. (More weird crimes stories.)

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